Let’s be honest: when you hear the word ‘Somalia’ what are the first thoughts that come to mind? War, lawlessness, poverty, hunger, pirates, failed-state and most of all, bombings, terrorism and Al-Shabbab are the things many associate with Somalia. While all of the above are true in varying degrees, the fact is that there is another side of Somalia that the media have chosen to ignore. Every coin has two sides. That the mainstream media has chosen to highlight the “ugly” side of Somalia does not mean there is not a softer, beautiful side to the country and her people.
The short video in this piece is proof that people are carrying on with their lives. The video was shot a few days ago by Mohamed Midnimo who is among a group of young Somali-Dutch citizens currently visiting their ancestral homeland. It is poignant to hear Amina (the vlogger) talk about the perceptions she had been fed with growing up in the West. The situation on the ground is far less grim than she and her travel party could have imagined.
The fact that people are even able to travel by air to Mogadishu puts paid to the perception that Somalia’s capital is a gangster fortress being governed by a group of religious fanatics. One cannot but praise the courage of these young people in disregarding the perceived dangers and going ‘home’ to see for themselves. Amina puts it best when she says they’ve been there for three weeks and they’ve not heard of a single bomb explosion.
In our western psyche, there is a bomb explosion every hour in Mogadishu. That is what the powerful, mainstream press has made us believe over the years. The fact that they make us believe it does not make it true. This video, shot on the beautiful and scenic Liido beach in Mogadishu is one proof that the press is mostly wrong.
Oh yes, lest one forget, the video was shot in Somalia and uploaded to social media from Mogadishu. What does that tell us? That there are internet cafes there, that there is electricity there, that people are working there, that people have access to social media there, that people there could just be you! Yes, Mogadishu sounds like Helsinki, Glasgow or even Rotterdam. People go about with their lives doing whatever they need to survive.
The young people (students) in the video grew up in the West. Not all young Somalis returning home are going there to become terrorists, or the latest recruits of some religious zealots. Even with stories of war and devastation, young people still go back home to visit Somalia because of the same reasons you and I sometimes need to go back to our own ‘roots’. It is the need to connect and sometimes even find a missing part of your life’s puzzle.
The lesson? Next time you think Somalia, think you!